Dale Peck’s Body Surfing

I didn't see this one coming: Dale Peck has written a novel that reads like a Clive Barker novel -- witty, gory, stylish horror that's distinctly gay. Hopping genres as easily as the demons in Body Surfing switch bodies, Peck summons up a world of rapid conquests and unbridled appetites – all of human history explained as S/M – and demons that savage their victims as ruthlessly as, in an earlier incarnation, Peck the critic eviscerated the likes of William Faulkner.

Some of the rules: if you die a virgin, you may be doomed to possess other bodies for all eternity, accumulating attendant memories as you go, but you can only switch from one body to another by having sex. “Almost every legendary monster of human or semihuman appearance – werewolves and vampires, yetis and zombies -- could be traced back to the work of this or that demon.”

It seems to be a particular danger of writing horror that it's too easy to go on autopilot, and sometimes reading Body Surfing I got the same feeling I got reading the late dark thrillers of Thomas M. Disch, that the author's heart was not entirely in this... Still, it's a fun read, and stylistically vivid if a bit jaded.

“In years gone by I have taken on Roman centurions and barbarian hordes, Apache war parties and Nazi stormtroopers. Trust me, Jasper. You don't have a chance.”

Peck is scarily versatile. He reports in this blog post that he wrote the beginning of Body Surfing around 2000, and adds “in an effort to keep my literary (and not-so-literary) projects alive and out there in the world, I’ve decided to create a section on this site called First Chapters of Future Novels.” Putting up lots of first chapters on one's website might actually be rather a good idea...

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